You can try to contain her. You can try to help her. You can even root for her failure.
But, you can’t stop a woman on a mission.
Serena Williams was on a mission. She's been on a mission since her youth. The desire to be the best, to be #1.
22 proved to be a formidable opponent for. She had been chasing 22 since July 2015, when she last won Wimbledon. Each time she was at 22’s door, she knocked, but 22 would not open. Not in New York. Not in Melbourne. Not in Paris.
Now, here was Williams in London. One year later, ready for 22’s challenge. Only this time, Williams didn’t knock. She kicked 22’s door open and charged on through.
Serena is the 2016 Wimbledon Ladies’ Singles champion. It is Grand Slam title #22 for Williams, tying her with the great Steffi Graf. Williams defeated Germany’s Angelique Kerber in a highly competitive straight set match, 7-5, 6-3.
This is the same Kerber that Williams lost to in Melbourne at the Australian Open earlier this year, 4-6, 6-3, 4-6. Although Williams didn’t play especially well, Melbourne was Kerber’s announcement to the tennis world that she was a force to be reckoned with. She outplayed Williams in Australia. It was a reminder for Williams that she had more work to do.
Australia, and subsequently Paris at the French Open, where she lost to Garbiñe Muguruza in the final, was also a reminder to us that the mission to #22 was still very much within her grasp. We saw the toll 2015 took on Williams mentally and emotionally - covered here in our “Serena” documentary review.
Very few people in this world are in the spotlight like Williams was last September. Every move she made, every word she said, every tweet she sent - analyzed ad nauseum. The world watched as the calendar year slam and #22 was within her reach.
And, we watched it fly away like a stray Williams backhand.
Many wanted her to get it. Some didn’t. They cheered her failure. Whether it was race, sex or whatever, they did not want her to win, no matter the stakes.
But, like all great champions, this one in particular said, I will rise.
In her victory over Kerber today, Williams showed how much she learned from their Melbourne encounter. The cross-court pass wasn’t a weapon for Kerber today. Neither was her first-serve. And she was unable to force Williams into hitting the extra shot that helped her in Australia. Williams’ serve, net play, anticipation, movement and, yes, the mental game was too much for Kerber today.
It takes a special kind of athlete to overcome what “the world” deems a failure. Special kinds of athletes don’t cave to the world and their ideals. They rise above them and live according to their own ideals of what their sporting life should be.
Serena Williams is still on a mission. #22 wasn't the end of the mission. The mission to win never ends. Not for the great ones. They are always striving to get better. Always seeking that next challenge. They are always chasing history, either someone else's or their own.
Serena Williams is still striving, seeking, and chasing. She is writing her own history. In her own style. In her own way.
You can't stop Serena Williams on a mission.
If you try, Serena will just say “Watch me! I will rise.”